5 Steps to a Successful Interview

February 13, 2024

Step 1 PREPARE for the Interview

Gather Information
First, make sure that you know the time that the interview is scheduled for, where the interview will take place, the name and job title of the person who will interview you, and whether you need to bring anything to the interview.

Then gather as much information as you can about the company. Having this background information also makes it easier for you to think of questions to ask the employer during your interview. Find out the essential elements of the job and think about how they match your skills and interests.

Knowing in advance where the interview will take place increases your confidence and decreases the possibility of arriving late. Allow extra time for unexpected delays. If the place of interview is in a busy part of town or where parking spaces are limited, you may want to consider using public transportation.

What to Bring
Paper and pen for taking notes.
Your driver's license.
Samples of your work.
Copies of transcripts, educational certificates, and professional qualifications.
Copies of your résumé.
A copy of your application.
Your reference list.
Your list of questions that you would like to ask.

Step 2 DRESS for Success

Your appearance says a lot about you. To make the best first impression at your interview, be clean, well groomed, and nicely dressed. A good rule of thumb is to dress one step above what you would wear on the job, or at minimum in good, clean dress clothing.

Before the day of your interview, you need to:

  • Get a haircut.
  • Groom your hands and nails.
  • If you have a beard or moustache, trim it so it looks neat.
  • Buy or borrow appropriate clothing.
  • Lay your clothing out the night before so you are sure it is clean and all there.
  • Get a good night's sleep.

To prepare the morning of the interview you need to:

  • Take a shower or bath.
  • Wash your hair.
  • Use extra unscented deodorant.
  • Do not use perfume or aftershave (some people are allergic).
  • Eat a light meal or snack before the interview.
  • Brush and floss your teeth.
  • Use mouthwash or breath mints.
  • Bring a small mirror, brush, and/or comb.

Learning how to dress smart for your interview will create a great impression and also give your self-confidence a real boost. Do not wait until the night before to prepare. Your job interview is too important, so get yourself organized early.

Step 3 PRACTICE Makes Perfect

Try a mock interview. Several days before your interview, have a friend or family member ask you interview questions. This helps you prepare for the interview and respond to questions more naturally by thinking about why you are a good fit for the job. It also makes you feel more confident and relaxed in the interview, as well as shows the employer that you are organized and well-prepared.

Prepare for your interview by reviewing sample interview questions you could expect an employer to ask you such as:

  • Why do you want to work for this company?
  • What are your strengths? Weaknesses?
  • Tell me about your education and training background.
  • What was your favorite subject or activity in school?
  • What is your formula for getting along successfully with other people?

Review these strategies for the interview:

  • Be honest and think quickly.
  • Speak clearly and maintain eye contact with the interviewer.
  • Explain what you can do for the employer and why you want the job.
  • Remember to use good examples to illustrate your point and your skills.
  • Express yourself in a positive manner.
  • Avoid appearing desperate or overly confident for the position.
  • Avoid saying negative things about previous employers.


Most interviews start with introductions, handshakes, and casual conversation. Remember that the interviewer may be nervous too! This conversation helps everyone relax a bit. Be energetic and enthusiastic, smile, and offer a firm handshake. It is fine for you to initiate the handshake. If you are meeting someone who is unable to shake hands for some reason, it is still polite for you to offer your right hand. Your handshake should be firm and solid, but not bone-crushing or too gentle.

Sit up straight in the chair, leaning forward occasionally. Look the potential employer straight in the eye, because good eye contact means that you are interested in the person and confident in yourself. It is fine to smile and laugh during the interview, as long as it is appropriate.

The interviewer may give you a lot of detail about the job, or he or she may start by asking about you. Many times job interviews turn into conversations and that is fine. Feel free to ask questions throughout the interview. Remain composed and enthusiastic to show how well you work under pressure.

It is also important to articulate your skill set to the interviewer. Although you need to answer the questions they ask, it is essential to illustrate your skills and abilities through your answers to the questions and make your qualifications clear to the interviewer. It may feel uncomfortable to be so forward about your abilities, but this is not the time to be shy!

Expect that the interviewer will have a prepared list of questions and may take notes as you answer the questions. Do not be concerned if the interviewer is writing things down.

Here are a few key tips on what to bring and what to do:

  • Bring your handbag, briefcase, and/or portfolio.
  • Go alone and arrive 10 to 15 minutes early.
  • Be very courteous to receptionists.
  • Visualize the interview going well, take deep breaths, and relax.
  • Do not chew gum during an interview.
  • Avoid swearing or using slang.

Questions to Ask
The employer may ask directly if you have any questions about the job. It is very important that you have some questions to ask. It is helpful if you think of these questions in advance, using the information you learned when you researched the company. Keep in mind that while the interviewer is determining whether you are a good fit for the job, you are determining whether the job is a good fit for you.

Your questions should relate to the company or the job duties, but it is not appropriate to ask how much the job pays. Use the following questions to help you think about what you may want to ask your interviewer.

  • When do you expect to fill the position?
  • May I see the area where I will be working?
  • What is the next step in the interview process?
  • What education and training does the company provide?
  • Why is this a good place to work?
  • Will I work alone or with other people?
  • What is the management style of your company?
  • Is there a probation period?
  • What opportunities are there for advancement?
  • How are the employees evaluated?
  • What tools, safety gear, or uniforms are required? Do I purchase them, or does the company supply them?

Discussing Salary
You may be asked, “What is your expected salary?” Keep your answer as general as possible because employers might not consider you if your amount is too high. If you are pressed for a dollar amount, you could say, “I would like to earn approximately the average salary for someone with my experience.”

Finish with Confidence
At this point, the interviewer may ask you if you have anything else that you would like to tell them. This is a great opportunity to emphasize your skills and abilities in a concise and confident manner, and to share information that did not come up in the interview. Keep it brief, around 30 seconds to one minute. This is your chance to highlight the things that make you a great fit for the job and leave the interview on a positive note. Remember, it is up to you to explain why you are the best person for the position.

It is appropriate to shake the interviewer's hand again at the end of the interview, thank them for taking the time to interview you, and say goodbye.

Step 5 AFTER the Interview

Write and send a thank you letter to your interviewer and anyone else you spoke with during your interview. Type your thank you letter on a computer. Be sure to check your spelling of all names and titles. Thank the interviewer for the time he or she took to interview you, re-emphasize your skills, talents, and abilities, and include anything you may have forgotten to add during the interview or in your résumé that might help get you the job.

What to do after the interview:

  • Send a thank you letter.
  • If you take the job, do not be shy about negotiating a salary.
  • If you did not get the job, get feedback on why you did not get the position and stay positive.
  • Reflect on what went well and what did not go well to improve for the next interview.

Source: Excerpted from Oregon Career Information System, ©2023, University of Oregon, All Rights Reserved.

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